Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from the pigment producing cell, melanocytes. It is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds which trigger mutations that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.
They usually occur on parts of the body that are overexposed to UV rays, however, in some cases it can start in parts of the body that have never been exposed to the sun, such as the nervous system. While it is the least common of the skin cancers if left untreated it can quickly spread to other parts of the body and have fatal results.
Warning Signs – the ABCDEs of Melanoma:
Melanomas may look like a mole to start with but invariably changes over the coming months. Identifying changing spots is very important in early identification. They are usually seen rather than felt, there may be some itching. Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type and follows the ABCDE of clinical assessment.
Assymetry – if you draw a line down the middle the two halves will not match.
Borders – tend to be more uneven in melanomas. They may scalloped or notched.
Colours – another warning sign is a variety of different colours. Ranging from shades of tan, brown or black, it may also become red, blue or some other colour that is not usual.
Diameter – they are usually larger in diameter, around 6mm or more. However, they can be smaller on early detection.
Evolving – changes in size, shape, colour elevation or any symptoms such as itching, bleeding, crusting are all warning signs.
Our doctors see a variety of people with skin cancers and skin lesions for both diagnosis and advice on treatment. You can be assured that the utmost care and compassion is provided to all patients who visit the Bondi Skin Cancer Clinic.
Standard consultations are usually around half an hour but could extend to be longer if a more complex consultation, or any procedures such as biopsies or minor excisions are required.
Any surgical procedures that may be required are performed onsite under local anaesthetic with an experienced nurse assisting.
During your consultation any treatment options will be discussed. There are various types of treatment available for different types of skin cancers. Some treatments can be done onsite while sometimes you may need to be referred to another specialist for treatment. This will be discussed with you.
Depending on your treatment plan you may be required to see the doctor 1 to 2 weeks after you initial consultation to discuss results of you pathology, treatment options, or to take out any sutures if you had a procedure done.
If results require urgent follow up as soon as the doctor receives the results you will be called back in for urgent consultation.
What to bring
On the day of your appointment, please ensure that you bring along:
If one of our doctors at Bondi Skin Cancer Clinic thinks that a suspicious area on your skin might be cancerous, they will take a sample for further examination. Based on the information received about the biopsy they will then plan a treatment strategy appropriate for the cancer type. There are different methods employed for this, depending on the size, type and location of the affected area.
Skin biopsies are done using a local anaesthetic so you should not feel any pain during the biopsy. Any biopsy is likely to leave a scar, however our doctors do work to ensure any scarring is a minimal as possible. Please ensure to talk to the Doctor about the type of biopsy required and possible.
The doctor “shaves” the top layers of the skin with a specialised surgical blade which takes the top layers off the skin. This type of biopsy is useful in diagnosing basal or squamous cell skin cancers. It would not be beneficial in diagnosing melanoma as the sample would not be thick enough to measure how deeply the melanoma may have invaded the skin.
A tool that looks like a tiny round cookie cutter is used in this procedure. It is used to take a deeper sample of skin using a small diameter.
Incisional and excisional biopsies
These techniques are used where the doctor may need to examine a tumour that may have grown deeper in the layers of skin. Incisional is where they remove a portion of the tumour, removal of the entire tumour is called an excisional biopsy and is usually done when a melanoma is expected. These can be done with a local anaesthetic.
Examining the biopsy samples
All skin samples are sent to pathology for further examination and diagnosis by a specialist.